Clearing sputum: autogenic drainage

Autogenic Drainage is a breathing technique used to clear differing levels of the lung and help the patient/client  to breathe better. It should only be taught by a respiratory physiotherapist or specialist respiratory nurse.

This technique can help when:

  • The Active Cycle of Breathing Technique is not effective or is making the patient/client wheezy.
  • They are coughing  a lot.
  • They regularly produce a lot of sputum.

Autogenic drainage involves breathing right out, as far as possible, to loosen mucus from the small airways at the edges of the lungs. The mucus can then be moved to the larger more central airways making it easier to huff or cough up.

The following film shows autogenic drainage in real time.

View text transcript

We are now going to demonstrate Autogenic Drainage which is another treatment which can be used to treat your chest.

What we are going to do this time is start off with a test breath. Your test breath will be a nice big deep breath in as far as you can and hold for three then huff out.

Keep doing that huff until you hear the secretions or feel the rumbling in your chest. When you feel the rumbling in your chest, take a normal breath in and huff out until you feel the urge to cough and clear the phlegm.

This technique is moving the phlegm up the chest so it is easier to clear it out of your chest.

I am going to put my hands on your chest while you are doing your breaths in to make sure you don’t take too deep a breath in the top part of your chest.

Deep breath in, hold for three and then do your huff out until you hear the phlegm moving. Normal breath in and huff out. Take several breaths until you feel the urge to cough.

Repeat again. Test breath first. Deep breath, hold for three then huff. Continue until your chest feels more comfortable and you have coughed up your secretions.